Union Pacific Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. It prioritizes improving and enriching health, human services, and the overall quality of life for the regions on the Union Pacific railway line.

IP TAKE: Union Pacific Foundation emphasizes the arts through its directive to “improve and enrich the general quality of life in the community.” Funding for visual arts is a primary expression of its arts support. However, grant seekers must be in a community that is “reasonably close” to its railroad line.

PROFILE: Originally established in 1959, Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. The foundation seeks “build safe, prosperous, and vibrant communities by investing in high-quality nonprofits ad programs in the cities and towns” where it has a presence. It supports visual arts funding through its Community-Based Grant Program.

Geographically, Union Pacific serves a lot of “communities,” more than 50 cities/regions across the U.S. Grant seekers located in or west of the vertical geographic line of Milwaukee-Little Rock-New Orleans are likely to be on Union Pacific’s radar. Its system map is useful here.

The foundation’s Community-Based Grant Program subdivides its focus into “Community and Civic” and “Health and Human Services.” The foundation’s support of the arts falls under the former.

By Union Pacific Foundation’s own assessment, the average grant amount for its recipients over the past few years is “less then $10,000.” However, the foundation sometimes makes much larger grants, in the hundreds of thousands, to visual arts projects. Union Pacific Foundation seeks to promote “program effectiveness,” and therefore prefers to fund capacity building, which it describes as “helping new or existing programs reach more people or reach them effectively.” This definition and prioritization opens up a lot of opportunity for a visual arts organization or program seeking support. Past grantees include the Durham Museum (Omaha, NE); the Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha, NE); Webster Arts (Webster Groves, MO); the Museum of Latin America (Long Beach, CA); and the Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch (Antioch, CA), among others.

Applications are an open, online process with a mid-August deadline. Union Pacific Foundation points out that it funds its grants with operating profits from its corporate side, not through an endowment, so this might also be a reminder for grant seekers to consider using a train for their next travel adventure.

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